An Offer too Good to Refuse

August 18, 2009 at 2:41 pm | Posted in Programme Management, Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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Thinking String - Unravelling Complexity

Thinking String - Unravelling Complexity

I was delighted (and more than a little anxious) to be asked recently by Simon Perry to contribute to his Thinking String website. As you may know, Simon has established Thinking String as a federated consultancy, providing expert and hype-free guidance to technology vendors, service providers and academia which are developing solutions that enable an effective and equitable low carbon economy.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Simon for a number of years, when we were both part of CA’s EMEA Security team.  More recently, Simon was ranked the 2nd most influential analyst on Green IT and Sustainability in the Analyst of the Year annual survey, conducted by the Institute of Industry Analyst Relations (IIAR).

I’ll be writing for Simon from time to time on matters concerning risk and programme management, as well as my own subject area of Identity and Access management.

 Destined to Fail?

My first article for Thinking String  addresses the problems that seem to surround delivering large scale infrastructure projects and programmes successfully.  By large-scale infrastructure projects, I’m thinking of those projects, which span all (or most) Business Units and locations and impact upon multiple business processes.   Admittedly, my observations are drawn mostly from enterprise security management deployments (in particular Identity and Access Management), although I suspect that the same is true of other technology management areas, such as Network and Systems Management and Service Management.  You can read the whole article on the Thinking String website, but I’ll include the key points here:

  • Make a plan – and stick to it!  Once the design is signed off, resist the temptation to adopt a new version or service pack, unless there’s a very clear need for some functionality to overcome a major problem.
  • Listen to the vendor. They know what they’re talking about (most of the time).  Consider the use cases that need to be satisfied during the selection phase and select a vendor that closely aligns with those. During deployment, the closer you can then stay to the chosen vendor’s logical architecture, then the more likely it is that the deployment will be successful.
  • Beware Showstoppers.  Be sure that the governance arrangements for your project are adequate to ensure that the impact to your project will be considered by the decision makers and also that you have a channel to “escalate” if a project assumption should prove false.
  • Deliver frequently in small increments and prioritise by value returned.  Deliver key use cases first and make regular deliveries of additional functionality, to ensure that the Business can see the value of continuing.

Infrastructure projects can and of course do succeed in delivering value to the Business.  But, to achieve this, you need to put a lot of effort into programme management and in particular into publicising your project and its successes to the Business.  Above all, keep in mind that just because it’s infrastructure, doesn’t mean that it’s all about IT.  Remember that people and processes are involved too.



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  1. Great to have you contributing Tom, and to be able to draw upon your considerable expertise and insight. ’51 is a fine vintage indeed and one that I always pleased to sample the fruits of.

  2. There are quite a few checklists of this type around, however one item makes this one stand out – “the closer you can then stay to the chosen vendor’s logical architecture, then the more likely it is that the deployment will be successful” – this one’s ignored much too often. Great list!

    • Hi Alistair,

      Yes, vendors have learned that following their reference architecture dramatically reduces the risk to the project, without seriously reducing the functionality. They very often price their “implementation packs” accordingly.

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